A few South Florida bands are currently floating around Austin -- from Broward and Palm Beach Counties, we've got the Band in Heaven and the Jameses, and from Miami, we've got a few acts like Plains and ANR. The Band in Heaven is perhaps experiencing the most intense trial by fire. The group has never toured extensively together, and only the singer, Ates Ildisak, has ever even attended SXSW. And still, they've gamely agreed to a grueling schedule, with some eight shows in four days, half of those gigs stacked up on one crazy Wednesday.
We caught up yesterday night with percussionist Ryan Burk (disclaimer: a former County Grind intern) as the band waited to play a gig at a house venue called the Common Co-op. It had been only two days after the group landed in town after a nearly 24-hour, straight-shot drive to Austin from South Florida. The Band in Heaven doesn't own a van -- so they rented a Chevy Suburban, and, unfortunately, no trailer. "We looked and looked for one but couldn't get one anywhere, so eventually we had to give up," Burk says. "This thing is completely filled to the brim with all our stuff; it's so cramped it's insane."
They do have it better than many other first-timers though, in one respect -- Burk says they're staying at a friend's house, which means guaranteed daily showers. But the first day was, as many bands soon discover at SXSW, a bit of a grind. There were three daytime gigs and then one at night, with barely an hour between some of the slots.
"The biggest challenge is just trying to stay sane and not scream and yell at each other," says Burk. "The atmosphere is crazy, and traffic and parking are insane. I'm busy loading and unloading all the time. It's been a little bit of an endeavor, to say the least."
Luckily, it seems to be paying off. Wednesday's marathon ended with a set to an audience of about 400 people at Cheer Up Charlie's. And Band In Heaven wisely laid a good bit of pre-SXSW groundwork by sending out its latest seven-inch for HoZac Records, Sleazy Dreams, and getting a bit of blog buzz going. The label itself is also sponsoring its own Saturday-night showcase at the venue the Liberty Sun.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
Burk even hints that there are some label types who have been sniffing around -- but again, he stresses that they wouldn't have been interested if the band had not reached out to many people previously. "I would absolutely recommend doing that," he says. In the meantime, they're also hustling, of course, by passing out demo CDs and even selling a few copies of that seven-inch.
So the advice from these SXSW virgins is thus: do your due diligence in advance, and don't expect to be randomly discovered. The festival is perhaps best for forging connections you've already started to make -- and above all, it's for staying calm and going with the flow.